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Photo Exhibit Shows the City Through the Lens of LGBT Teens

By Mathew Katz | May 2, 2012 2:59pm
A shot by a student at the Hetrick-Martin Institute's photography program, which will be shown off at the Time and Life Building.
A shot by a student at the Hetrick-Martin Institute's photography program, which will be shown off at the Time and Life Building.
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Hetrick-Martin Institute

MIDTOWN — Growing up as a street-smart teen in Brooklyn, Neveen Mooney was never bullied because he was gay, so he never felt he needed any help from LGBT outreach groups.

"I wasn't sure I would get along with the people there," he said.

But when he was invited to participate in a LGBT photography program, something about the idea struck a chord and the 17-year-old Flatbush resident soon flourished in the after-school photography class at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, the oldest and largest LGBTQ youth service organization in the country.

"I like high-fashion photography," said Mooney.

"Sometimes landscape, but mostly fashion — and pictures of me," he added with a laugh.

Now Neveen and dozens of others in the program have put together a new photography exhibit at the Time and Life Building at 1271 Sixth Ave. "Through My Eyes: Myself, My Family, My Community" is a collection of photos designed to show off the city through the lens of LGBT youth.

Appropriately enough, Mooney's contribution is a self-portrait.

"We want to get ourselves out there more and have people have a little more sympathy for what we go through," said Mooney, an 11th-grader at the High School for International Arts Business in Brooklyn.

"That's opposed to mainstream photographers, who are not LGBT, who don't want to show as much as we allow our audience to see."

The photos range from candid shots of friends goofing around at school or on the subway to high-fashion pieces showcasing gay teen style, and even high-concept shots showing the isolation of some LGBT teens in the city.

The exhibit will run through the end of June, and photo lovers will be able to buy unframed 16 x 20 prints of each teen's artwork online for $100 each, with proceeds going towards HMI's photography program.

The organization is also hosting a showcase of the exhibit on Thursday, where the public can see the photos, meet the young people behind them, and learn more about HMI's work.

The organization's Heyvaert-Heynen Photography Program itself was launched in 2011 and is designed to give at-risk youth marketable photography skills, using art to teach HIV and STD prevention.

HMI runs three nine-week cycles, during which LGBT teens study how society represents them and how they themselves would like to be presented.

That doesn't mean they teach the teens self-pity. The program, he said, is just a way to have more LGBT resources and a place to hang out with people just like him.

"I'm not bullied at school — they love me there — I just keep everything honest with everyone, and this gives me more resources, LGBT resources," he said.

"I've yet to be bullied — and no one would dare try it anyway."

Space for Thursday's showcase is limited. Please email Chandler Bazemore to RSVP.